Kate Morland, Nutritionist
Feeding your children healthy food can be a challenge. It is important to understand that kids are going through rapid stages of growth and development and need good fuel to function.
Children grow at a phenomenal rate, and as a result have their own unique nutritional needs. What a child eats not only determines what they weigh, but also how well they feel and perform mentally and physically. Therefore good nutrition is essential for a child’s physical, emotional and mental health. Not only are some kids picky eaters but some just have bottomless pits to fill!
Not all foods are created equal and understanding what nutrients certain food groups provide will help make things a little easier. The energy (calories) required for growth and development are provided by the main macronutrients; fats, protein and carbohydrates. Fat, in the right form and quantity, is essential to fuel our bodies with energy, maintain structure and function of our cells and provide some important nutrients that can’t be made in the body. Where possible choose unsaturated fat-based spreads and oils from plant sources and low fat dairy products. Protein provides the critical “building blocks” for all cells and tissues in the body. As your child is going through a rapid stage of growth and development, dietary protein from good sources is vital. Protein also helps keep a child full so include some at each meal time. Carbohydrates provide the largest source of energy in the diet. Glucose is a subunit of carbohydrate and is essential fuel for the brain and for muscles during exercise.
In order to utilise fat, protein and carbohydrate effectively in the body, vitamins and minerals are essential. However we only need very small quantities, which is why they are regarded as micronutrients. Micronutrients are involved in energising and regulating metabolism and enabling the body’s various structures, such as the immune system, to function at their peak. A single deficiency or excess of micronutrients may affect the whole body. To get all the necessary nutrients, your child’s diet needs to be of high quality, and rich in wholegrain breads, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, nuts and seeds.